“I run with angelheaded hipsters and their sisters

Listen, if there’s genius in our poverty it’s not enough to lift us…”

The Ruby Kid was a hip-hop artist and spoken-word poet, based in London but originally from Nottingham (via Sheffield and with roots in New York’s Jewish community), active from 2007 to 2015. As a surly adolescent, The Ruby Kid divided his time between listening to American independent hip-hop (think Aesop Rock, El-P, Atmosphere, and WHY?) and causing trouble as an anti-capitalist political activist in various trade union and working-class campaigns. Now that he’s outgrown his adolescence, he plans to spend the remainder of his life in more-or-less the same fashion.

Cutting his rap teeth battling at his Nottingham comprehensive, The Ruby Kid began recording in 2007 after moving to Sheffield to study English Literature at university. A substantial local profile and following soon developed, as Steel City music fans gravitated towards something unorthodox, leftfield and radical in a scene dominated by generic indie rock on the one hand and bassline-influenced grime and garage on the other.

2008 saw him perform at countless live venues throughout Sheffield, including the legendary and much-missed Boardwalk, as well as clocking up gigs in London and Nottingham. Highlights included packed shows at Sheffield’s The Plug alongside grime superstars Wiley and Skepta. His first release, the free five-track demo La Manif garnered effusive praise from the local music press and prompted a reviewer at the well-respected Sandman Magazine to compare him to both Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg in the same review. (Unfortunately they’ve taken their online archives down so you’ll just have to take our word for it.)

The Ruby Kid released the Winter In The City EP at Sheffield’s Fuzz Club in March 2009, and has been gigging regularly since then across the country, frequently performing at benefit gigs and DIY events as well as appearing at Tramlines Festival (Sheffield’s “Urban Glastonbury”) in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. At the 2011 festival he distinguished himself as one of Steel City’s hardest working artists, making five appearances (three sets and two guest spots) across two days. At Tramlines 2012, collaborated with Sheffield bluesmen The Blackbirds at the Frog & Parrot, the venue of his first-ever gig.

His 2010 EP Maps won widespread claim from the hip-hop blogosphere, and in 2012 he reunited with beatmaker and producer Dan Angell to record Strange, Lively, & Commonplace, a free-to-download four-track EP. In April 2013, a remixes EP of ‘Benny & The Crow’, one of the singles from Strange, Lively, & Commonplace, followed, accompanied by a video by Daniel Rands. He saw out 2013 playing to a sold-out crowd at The Village Underground in Shoreditch, alongside Sheffield’s Renegade Brass Band, as part of  Soundcrash’s New Year’s Eve Extravaganza, on a lineup that also featured Public Service Broadcasting, Quantic, and Kid Koala.

Often accompanied on stage by his live backing band Black Jacobins, The Ruby Kid shared bills with a dazzling range of artists. From UK hip-hop veterans Jehst, Micall Parknsun, Kid Acne, Mystro, Juice Aleem, TY, and Rodney P to indie-rap heroes like Themselves (Anticon) and Anti-Pop Consortium, The Ruby Kid held his own alongside the best. In March 2010, he completed a UK tour alongside folk-punk outfit Al Baker & The Dole Queue, taking in dates in Manchester, Leeds, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham and London. In June 2011, he completed his first solo tour, with Dan Angell behind the decks.

After relocating to London in 2009, he developed as a spoken-word artist as well as a rapper, performing at some of the capital’s most prestigious poetry events, including Bang Said The GunChill PillCome Rhyme With Me, and Kid, I Wrote Back. In 2011, he hosted HOWL, an occasional night of spoken-word poetry, acoustic music and alternative hip-hop at the Horse & Groom in Shoreditch, East London. From March 2012 to March 2015, he also hosted Out-Spoken, a showcase of spoken-word poetry and independent music, alongside Anthony Anaxagorou and Karim Kamar. The Out-Spoken stage has seen performances from luminaries such as Polarbear, Floetry’s The Floacist, To Kill A King, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Eliza Shaddad, and many more.

Outside of music, The Ruby Kid’s political activism (firmly anchored in the realm of left-wing troublemaking and predicated on the kind of ideas that your Daily Mail-reading aunt would probably describe as “extremist”) has seen him make a nuisance of himself for rich folk as part of various campaigns throughout the UK and even led to his tweets from the recent student protests at Millbank being featured in The Guardian and on American news channel CNN. He has been a member of Workers’ Liberty, a Trotskyist gang much given to such pursuits as catalysing sit-down strikes in wind turbine factories and building solidarity with outsourced workers’ struggles in major universities, since the age of 14.

In 2015, he announced an indefinite hiatus from writing, recording, and performing to focus on other commitments.

So, that’s him. We could go on, but… well, we won’t. The Ruby Kid likes to think his work existed at the point of convergence between the politico-artistic legacies of Sean Daley, Percy Shelley, and Hal Draper. It didn’t, but it’s nice that he thinks that. Anyway, have a look around the site. Draw your own conclusions.